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STETHS student sees new future in ICT

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2019 | 12:00 AM

“Up until the hackathon, I figured I would be a maths teacher, but now that our team has won this award for our app, I’m really thinking maybe I’m good enough go into IT. I was wondering if I was that good at tech, and now I think I could be,” said Liveonyah Bennett, lower sixth-form student at St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), and team captain of the school’s hackathon team.

STETHS girls placed first in the high school division of the Caribbean. Girls. Hack app-building competition on May 14 at the Chinese Benevolent Association.

Second place went to the St Andrew’s High School for Girls, and the Immaculate Conception High School for Girls took third. Winners in the university division were University of Technology (first), Northern Caribbean University (second), and The University of the West Indies (third). Winning teams received prizes of cash (up to $150k JMD), gadgets, and scholarships to tech camps.

Supported by mentors and judges who are key players in the ICT sector, teams of girls aged 13-21 raced the clock to create tech-based solutions to gender-based violence and climate change. STETHS received the top prize for creating a mobile game themed around climate change mitigation titled “Mitty Saves the World.” The game is intended to both directly and indirectly influence young people to be more aware of the impact of global warming.

Day-long event

The day-long event, run by co-founders Nicole Pitter-Patterson and Bridget Lewis and tech partner Raj Ramdass RSC Tech Clubs, is supported by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC).

Emphasising that more work needs to be done, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Fayval Williams said: “Despite the groundbreaking work and the vast number of women who were employed in the technology sector in the past, in today’s society, women are generally under-represented in this sector.”

The underlying causes for girls not entering the sector are numerous, though hesitation to enter a male-dominated field is one of the most frequently cited reasons.

Bennett said that the two-month curriculum leading up to the one-day hackathon gave her a lot of confidence.

The girls were treated to a Q&A with Facebook account manager and diversity activist Ejeb Dema, who emphasised that not only do girls benefit from IT, but that IT development suffers when women are not involved. Dema encouraged the girls to “speak up and take part”.

Judges and mentors included key decision makers in the local ICT industry such as Ingrid Riley, founder of the Maverick Media Group; Sheldon Powe CEO of Innovate10x; Chris Reckord of e-learning; Larren Peart CEO of Bluedot Data Intelligence; Kenia Mattis of ListenMi Caribbean; and Ayanna Samuels, Jamaican rocket scientist and international development professional.

Sponsors included NCB, Scotiabank, CIBC First Caribbean, Loop, The Jamaica Observer, Phase 3, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank, and FLOW.